Design Project: January Implementation

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As I was saying in my last post, after working on my design project for some time, I’ve been eager to make these plans happen and test my solutions.

For January, the implementation plan scheduled:

  1. Set up herb planters
  2. Establish guild for avocado tree
  3. Install fairy lights on garden arch
  4. Patio cover quotes

So what happened?

I put together a Herb Planter Guide to plan herb functions and care, and do a rough positioning guide to eventually have my version of a herb spiral in a Stack-a-pot near the kitchen. I planted marigold, thyme and chives seeds in little pots for the herb planter and watched them grow in the kitchen window.

Chives seeds planted

Chives seeds planted

Marigold and thyme seeds

Marigold and thyme seeds

I spent a lot of time watering tomato plants.

Big red tomato plants

Big red tomato plants

I took Miss Z on a trip to Kinglake Raspberries to pick berries from the source.

Raspberry picking

Raspberry picking

We had a family trip to Rain, Hayne and Shine farm

Happy as a pig in the mud

Happy as a pig in the mud

I had a gift from putting down compost around the garden arch – pumpkin plants grew!

Pumpkin plants grew from the compost

Pumpkin plants grew from the compost

Pumpkin plants grew on both sides of the garden arch

Pumpkin plants grew on both sides of the garden arch

Patio cover builders are busy/unavailable in January.

What I learnt from that

Plant more seeds than you want as plants as they don’t all germinate. Also, seeds can take a while to germinate, and then to grow to a transplantable size. Plant seeds regularly and maybe figure out where to put them later if you grow more of them than expected.  I’m such a planner, I almost can’t believe I just said that.

Tomato plants seemed to do better with a watering every other day, but with some shade from the afternoon sun. Ours had no shade from the afternoon sun, so I kept watering them as they looked like they suffered on a few occasions.

Yeah, the tomato plants copped a bit too much sun

Yeah, the tomato plants copped a bit too much sun

Holidays are awesome and take them when you can.

Don’t plan work with tradespeople in January unless you already know they are working then.

What about the plan?

Overall, work was in progress but I wasn’t able to update the status to done, unfortunately.  Still according to the Permaculture Principles, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.  Principle #12 is creatively use and respond to change, and my family benefitted from holidays and trips instead of having patio cover quotes.

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Design Project: Implementation Plan, Budget and Maintenance

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So now I have a design, the next stage of the project is P for Plan a Schedule of Implementation, Maintenance and Feedback from the CEAP process. How does the design become reality?

Sweet peas holding on to each other to support their growth.  Everything is a work in progress :)

Sweet peas holding on to each other to support their growth. Everything is a work in progress 🙂

Implementation Plan and Calendar

Implementation Plan and Calendar

I have used Excel to mock up a Gantt chart for the end of 2014 and the months continuing to October 2015. I have shown the tasks, who is doing the work, the status, and the month the work is scheduled for. I have also included a list of recommendations in terms of the order of work and reasoning behind the timing. Following the Care of People ethic, I have scheduled in a break in April and in July. I have noted that feedback and tweaks will be ongoing during these tasks. Most tasks are able to be handled by us, the owners. A few tasks will need to be handled by tradespeople as they are bigger or require more expertise. Potentially, the paving work could be handled by a tradesperson as well if that’s easier and cost effective.

Budget

Design Project Budget

I have listed the budget items to be read in alignment with the implementation plan. I have listed the projects, the items required for the project, the cost per unit, the quantity, the cost, source of the estimate, and some comments.

I have noted some general items to support soil improvement, and added a contingency of 10% as this is a concept budget, not detailed design. There are some works for the patio that my husband and I have been discussing that are also not in the scope of this design or budget, and I have noted that at the bottom.

Maintenance Notes

Maintenance Notes

I have taken a higher view of the key maintenance tasks and included some ideas on how to save time on them, because we all want to save time on these things and then we’ll have more time to spend enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, feel, and tastes of it all.

A Few Final Headings to Close Out The Project…

1. Feedback loop

I don’t need a formalised process for this as I’m the designer and client, and my husband and I regularly share our thoughts about the state of our property and ideas about what we’d like.

2. Surprises

The big surprise came when I was working on the PASTE analysis and discovered that the daphne is poisonous.

I have also been surprised that this has been a lot more work than I expected and I hope this means that I’ve done more than I needed to in order to complete the project.

I can’t recall being particularly surprised by anything else given that I am very familiar with the property and have ample opportunities to make observations.

3. Project Lessons Learnt

Project start up took a lot longer than I wanted between the winter viruses taking a toll particularly for my daughter, and familiarising myself with processes for permaculture.  It took me some time to determine what was required and how I wanted to complete the work, and I had a frustrated husband who thought the project would be ready in time for spring implementation.  Oops!  I have learnt to share any progress with the client (or husband) as it comes rather than waiting until an item is finished.  That way, I’m sharing the learning journey and can receive more feedback about whether things fit into expectations or vision for the design, and can adjust accordingly with little time wasted.

I have also learnt that there are gaps in documented processes for permaculture, and that processes don’t necessarily fit into a project framework.  If in doubt, I suggest asking the client what level of detail they are looking for.

What’s Next?

My next step is to provide all these design project blog links to my supervisor at the Regenerative Leadership Institute for review and (hopefully) approval. If they need anything else, I’ll blog that and send them the link. Wish me luck!

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project Tools for Analysis

Design Project Key Functions and a Design (nearly!)

Design Project Applying Permaculture Principles and a Design

Design Project: Applying Permaculture Principles and a Design

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Now I am up to sharing the documentation for A for Applying Permaculture Principles from the CEAP process for my design project. This consists of the design map, and a spreadsheet of the principles and patterns applied in the design.

Design and comments

Ta da!

Ta da!

Feedback on the design - success!

Feedback on the design – success!

Features of this design

This design is more child-focused, with a designated mulched section with stepping stone pavers with children’s garden and sandpit in the shade of the grevillea tree. I have noted a kid’s play area (intended as a rubber mat for safer playing than on the concrete) in the patio area which will allow for under cover play once the patio cover is built.

Having a mulched area will have many benefits, such as:

  • reduce the area for lawn mowing,
  • improve the look,
  • reduce the impact of sand wandering from the sandpit and help little feet brush off sand before coming in the house
  • help prevent the elm tree root suckers from popping up
  • improve the soil

The food production area next to it shows a location for the dwarf peach tree to be planted, and a blueberry shrub to accompany our existing shrub, and also to be planted in the ground behind the low bluestone wall. Planting them will help them to retain moisture and keep their roots cool.

The grevillea shrub along the fence can be moved to the children’s garden, and this creates space for a trellis and a couple of raspberry canes.

I have suggested a dwarf mulberry tree as they are established quickly and don’t need another tree for pollination. If not, then another fruit tree but check size and whether two trees are needed for pollination. The intention is for the trees to have guilds of perennial plants to support their needs for nitrogen, insects, and mulch, and many of those can easily be edible or medicinal. A water tank will fit next to the shed and provide drip irrigation for the trees.

I have put in an extra raised garden bed for more annuals behind the low bluestone wall (design principle #3: obtain a yield) while the trees are getting established.

On the other side of the house, the pergola can support a passionfruit vine and eventually a grapevine once the passionfruit dies back. An herb planter can sit on top of the easement outlet next to this, and after the daphne is removed, a potted lemon tree and potted rosemary will fit there in easy access to the kitchen and the tap.

Next to this is a ground mounted fold out washing line, ideally with a shade cover. This will take advantage of wind there to dry clothes (rather than using a small indoor clothes horse and dryer) and provide a wind break for the plants without causing issues with the easement piping.

A new garden bed in front of BBQ on the patio will provide a handy sunny spot for natives, including the woolly bush to be moved there as it hasn’t thrived in its current location. This will help to improve the rocky clay soil and have some wind protection from being in front of the BBQ.

This design doesn’t show an outdoor hutch for day time grass grazing and spreading manure by our little inhabitants, but that would be beneficial.

How does permaculture apply to this design?

This table outlines the 12 principles and my comments about how they relate to my design.

Applying Principles to the Design

Future possibilities

Consider an extra compost bin or two to accommodate extra plant material and allow one in use while the other is full.

To be reviewed after the patio cover is in place and we can observe how it casts shade and guides wind.

In conclusion

So, the design is the theory, and next I will share with you the budget, implementation plan, and maintenance notes to show how this can all happen!

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project Tools for Analysis

Design Project Key Functions and a Design (nearly!)

Design Project: Key Functions and a Design (nearly!)

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The E for Evaluate Information phase from CEAP is nice and short after the extensive data gathering of the C for Collect Site Information phase. At this stage, we ask which functions are most important to the client for the design? What are the critical energy leaks for the property?

The beauty of a rainbow after rain in September 2014.  It's the closest thing I had to a symbol of scales to represent the Evaluation Information stage.

The beauty of a rainbow after rain in September 2014. It’s the closest thing I had to a symbol of scales to represent the Evaluation Information stage.

Aranya recommends in Permaculture Design to choose 3 or 4 functions for the newbie permaculture designer and then with experience, choose more. Priorities are:

  • Client desires
  • Addressing potential threats such as flooding or fire, and
  • Supporting the ecosystem by plugging energy leaks

I have a presentation on the Key Functions to show this process leading to a draft design (oooh!), and a spreadsheet to identify the key functions and brainstorm systems and elements of those functions.

The idea is to have multiple functions for each element to make an interconnected a design as possible, and also multiple elements for each important function to build in security.

Key Functions Analysis

You’ll see in the Key Functions Analysis that the client desires are:

  • Food production
  • Play
  • Privacy, and
  • Socialising

And the energy leaks that will have the biggest impact are:

  • Water supply
  • Soil improvement, and
  • Wildlife habitat

Design Project Key Functions

These are reflected in the Design Project Key Functions presentation, and the elements are then positioned to support each other, and then to show journeys to ensure efficiency. This is followed by a draft design and I hope you can see what I have drawn there in pen, and some comments about the design. In this design, I was trying to go above and beyond with the food production desires and that wasn’t well received so it was back to the drawing board.

I’ll share the design in my next post and show how I’ve applied permaculture principles.

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project Tools for Analysis

Design Project: Tools for Analysis

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Here is the final documentation in the C for Collect Site Information phase of the design project. I put together a PASTE analysis for the property, which was a useful exercise in identifying all the plants and having a sense of the ecology in context.

PASTE Analysis

As you’ll see, PASTE stands for Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools and Events.

I found Nicole Vosper’s example on her blog very useful for creating my own PASTE analysis.

I was thrilled to be able to put names to some of the plants at the property that there already there before we moved in, as their labels were either not kept or disappeared and most of them have thrived on neglect. I did have one surprise from researching the fragrant daphne shrub on Wikipedia:

“All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and a range of domestic animals[4] and some people experience dermatitis from contact with the sap”.

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

Does this fit into the child-friendly aim of the permaculture design? I’d have to say no. I shared that revelation with my husband and we’ve decided that this daphne will have to go. I already battle eczema on my right hand and it sounds like that plant is a known agent with skin conditions.

What about climate risks?

As a side note, I was feeling after all this that the process was missing things and that a risk assessment would be valuable. I started putting together a spreadsheet based on weather extreme types eg. Heat/cold, hailstorms, lightning, wind, earthquakes, drought and flooding. With this, I was able to consider whether that was likely at the property, and what the impact would be. From that, it shows whether any action would be needed to mitigate those risks, which then could be either designed for with that in mind, and items budgeted.  I didn’t complete the spreadsheet as it was taking time I wanted to spend on the next stage of the project, but it was helpful to brainstorm on this issues.

The main take aways from that for me are:

  • the benefits of wind breaks to provide shelter from wind and reduce evaporation, which is critical in a drought-prone climate, and
  • to consider shelter such as hoops for the raised garden beds to protect them from our 40 degrees Celsius+ heat waves and hailstorms.

We’ve seen the impact of wind, heat, drought and hail over the years, and it is a shame to nurture growth and then have our climate show no mercy and wipe out what we’re trying to do.  We’ve had instances of wind gusts blowing off laserlite from our carport roof, and the poor avocado tree has had its leaves blown off. Our extreme heat has killed a few potted plants and burnt the daphne and camelias.  And we’ve been lucky that our tomato plants survived hail, but we wouldn’t be able to rely on that every time.  We had big hailstones on Christmas Day 2012 that put dents in the car bonnet, roller shutters and an air conditioning unit, and it’s not hard to imagine what that would do to plants in a raised garden bed.  Since we are aware of these things, I need to design around it or otherwise mitigate the risk.

It also occurred to me that a quick risk assessment of these climate factors would be useful to include in the client interview rather than as a separate step later.

So next I will be able to share the next phase of the project, which is E for Evaluate Information.

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project: Client Interview

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Do grevillea flowers look a bit like a mind map?

Do grevillea flowers look a bit like a mind map?

Next in the design project documentation to share is the client interview.  This is part of the C for Collect Site Information section of the process that I covered in my previous post.

Client_Interview mind map

For this, I wanted to cover key areas of discussion with my husband, as we are the owners of the property under design consideration. I set up key areas of discussion in a mind map back in September 2014 and captured his main thoughts and then added in mine to produce our overall requirements and ensure we both heard each other. Our daughter is too young to express her dreams and desires but I have observed that she is tactile and likes to move around to play with different things, so I have kept that in mind.

I used Mind Meister to create the mind map and found this very straightforward and I was able to turn the file into a pdf to email my husband for his reference and reflection, in case he had any other comments.

Next I will cover the tools for analysis…

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project: Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

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In my post, Creating An Example, I outlined what I want to achieve from the design project, and shared the 12 permaculture principles that provide guidance for this.

In this post, I would like to share my journey of developing the process for the project.

The branches reach out like signs in all directions

The branches reach out like signs in all directions

The way I see it, there are two parts to this:

  1. What is the overall process?
  2. In what format shall I capture the information, analysis, and reporting?

What processes are out there?

I have found a lot of the reading about the process to be quite high level and intangible. Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, which is the required reading for the course, offers a number of approaches for design methods such as:

  • design by listing characteristics of components,
  • design by expanding on direct observations of a site,
  • design by adopting lessons learnt from nature, and
  • design as a selection of options or pathways based on decisions, amongst others.

However, this doesn’t give an overall process.

So I turned to Permaculture Design by Aranya for more step-by-step assistance while this is new to me. When reading it, my first impression was that this was more what I was looking for, and it does place design in context of a project, which is helpful.

Aranya discusses a few different frameworks and their associated acronyms.

Some design frameworks

SADIMET represents Survey, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Evaluation, and Tweaking

OBREDIMET represents Observation, Boundaries, Resources, Evaluation, Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Evaluation, and Tweaking

Quite a mouthful, eh?

And this is where Ziga from Permablogger has put together a useful post on this.

Personally, I’m happy with a recipe-style guide, with number steps. I think the above can easily bundle similar activities together.

Choosing my process

Aranya also includes a shorter acronym in his book: CEAP.

C – Collect site information

E – Evaluate the information

A – Apply permaculture principles

P – Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation, and tweaking

That brings it down to 4 steps, which is far easier to remember, and not lose track of where you are in the process. Essentially, I want any process I use to be meaningful. It doesn’t really matter what you call the step; it’s what you do that’s important. I will need to reflect on whether these steps align with my process after this project is finished.

Which brings me to part 2, in what format shall I capture my work?

Capturing my work

In my working life, I was a System Manager a few short years ago, and our mantra with supporting projects was always to use the system that is fit for purpose. There are lots of systems out there, but you want to use the one that is:

  • accessible when and where you need it,
  • has training and support available to get you through the learning curve and to resolve any snags,
  • has acceptable costs,
  • scalable to your project size,
  • and importantly, fits into your processes so you can produce what you need.

My intention is to be able to take my permaculture lessons into a professional capacity in Melbourne, and since the requirements for the course assessment are so generic, it leaves presentation open to personal preference.

I had to wonder if there are industry standards for this documentation or is permaculture still finding its feet in that respect?

I found this article by Darren J. Doherty “A Case Study in Permaculture Design Business Development” published in 2007, who comments “The application of digital planning and mapping software and tools in Permaculture Design has to date not been prominent.”

This stands to reason that quick and easy documentation is the name of the game.

My formats and the promise

I’ve put together a Design Project Deliverables List in Excel to keep track of my documentation.  Letting clients know what to expect is a standard part of project delivery and enables a discussion about the level of detail they desire vs the agreed cost.

Design Project Deliverables List

You will see that I’ve organised it in terms of the design stages and noted the status.

I’m using the Microsoft Office suite, WordPress to publish and submit my work, plus a mind map from Mind Meister, all easy and free (aside from the initial cost of Microsoft Office).

The hard part for me has been the mapping, since the property is irregularly shaped.  I have used SketchUp for the base map. I had some timely local guidance for this from the director at Very Edible Gardens, Dan Palmer, who generously responded to my query about what they use and in gratitude I promised to mention it on my blog 😀  There you go, Dan!

You might be interested in seeing the responses from a question I raised in the Permaculture group on LinkedIn what they like to use for mapping, if you are a member of that group.

I liked the idea of using SketchUp as it can be used for both 2D and 3D rendering, and it can conveniently grab sections of Google Earth from within the program to sketch over.  It also has handy videos on YouTube to show different features of the program and that made the learning curve more approachable for me.  And I was able to use a free trial.  So that all makes it fit for purpose.  Hooray for making life easier!

So there you are, my process is CEAP, and I’m using computer-based tools for the documentation.  I have more C for Collect Site Information to share with you soon, including the all important client interview, base map, and PASTE analysis.

What about you?  Have you found any other useful processes in your permie work?